Families split in federal raids

first_imgCommunity activists scrambled to locate the children, offer infant-care tips to fathers unfamiliar with warming formula and changing diapers, and gather donations of baby supplies. One baby who was breast-feeding had to be hospitalized for dehydration because her mother remained in detention, authorities said. Child-care arrangements had to be made for at least 35 youngsters. Officials of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division released at least 60 of the workers who were sole caregivers to children, but more than 200 were sent to detention centers in Texas and New Mexico. “What is going to happen to the children? These children are American-born,” said Helena Marques, executive director of the Immigrant Assistance Center in New Bedford. “There are hundreds of children out there without their moms, in tremendous need. These babies have become the victims of a problem that legislators can’t seem to fix.” One mother was located in Texas after her 7-year-old child called a state hotline set up to help reunite the families, authorities said. The Massachusetts governor said the woman would be returned to Massachusetts. HOUSTON – They are the hidden side of the government’s stepped-up efforts to track down and deport illegal immigrants: Toddlers stranded at day care centers or handed over to ill-equipped relatives. Siblings suddenly left in charge of younger brothers and sisters. When illegal-immigrant parents are swept up in raids on homes and workplaces, the children are sometimes left behind – a complication that underscores the difficulty in enforcing immigration laws against people who have put down roots and begun raising families in the U.S. Three million American-born children have at least one parent who is an illegal immigrant; one in 10 American families has mixed immigration status, meaning at least one member is an immigrant here illegally, according to the Pew Center for Hispanic Research and the office of U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano. Children born in the U.S. are automatically American citizens and are not subject to deportation. This past week in Massachusetts, most of the 361 workers picked up in a raid at a New Bedford leather-goods factory that made vests and backpacks for the U.S. military were women with children, setting off what Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick called a “humanitarian crisis.” Massachusetts sent 37 social workers to Texas on Saturday to interview some of the women under arrest. Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby said the parents must be interviewed to make sure their youngsters are staying with responsible adults. Authorities said some of the women might be so afraid their youngsters will be taken away that they have refused to disclose they have children. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials defended their handling of the raid, saying the agency made arrangements in advance with social service agencies to care for the children. Spokesman Marc Raimondi said all immigrants arrested by ICE are interviewed to determine if they are the sole parent of their children. The agency can grant humanitarian releases, as they did in 60 cases in Massachusetts. As for the parents’ ultimate fate, being a single parent or the family breadwinner offers no special protection against deportation, said another ICE spokesman, Mike Keegan. “They made a decision to come into the country illegally,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that someone would not know of the consequences when they get caught.” U.S. Rep. William Delahunt said Sunday there would be a congressional investigation into the raid. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more